The wheel turns. Suprema Corte di Cassazione, Rome
The wheel turns.
Suprema Corte di Cassazione, Rome



We certainly didn’t expect that the Supreme Court of Cassation would have annulled the acquittal of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in 2013. It was for sure a mistake, so incomprehensible that to people emotionally involved it looked like a huge conspiracy was taking place in Italy.

Therefore, if all judges and politicians of Italy are secretly meeting to plan the conviction of two students and to free the “secret agent” Rudi Guede, we should be now one step away from the conclusion of that plot. Next trial, in Rome’s Supreme Court, should be just a formality, Knox and Sollecito should be convicted, and everyone in the conspiracy will be happy. But, is it really the case?


When facing something unknown people like to fantasize and make their own conspiracy theories, it’s natural.

Maybe, instead, the explanation is always the simplest one, and for everything: maybe Guede didn’t kill Meredith in a conspiracy with Knox and Sollecito… maybe he wasn’t a secret agent who went there to accomplish a mission… maybe there’s not an American organization that paid the media to say that Knox and Sollecito were innocent, and two judges to acquit them… as maybe there’s not a conspiracy of Italian judges and politicians to convict two students.

Let’s see, then, if there are some legal reasons for the Supreme Court to have reopened the case because, in case, there may be the same legal reasons to annul their conviction.

1.1 The Calumny Conviction

The ruling of Claudio Pratillo Hellmann and Massimo Zanetti contained one inconsistency: Knox was acquitted for murder but convicted for calumny (even though, as we know, there wasn’t any calumny). Accusers argued that if she accused an innocent (“calumny”) –as ruled by Hellmann, too– that was proof that she was involved in the murder.

Hellmann and Zanetti, in their motivation report, used irony to explain that even if they had convicted Knox for calumny, they knew that she didn’t commit any calumny, since her declarations weren’t spontaneous. But irony doesn’t make jurisprudence; it is not read in Supreme Court.

The explanation of why he convicted Knox for calumny, Hellmann gave only in an interview to Oggi: “Because otherwise we should have said that the cops were criminals.” So, in order to avoid saying that the cops had committed a crime in soliciting Knox’s statements against Lumumba, he made an inconsistent ruling, and, since interviews don’t belong in the trial, that inconsistency remained unexplained, becoming one of the elements used to ask for the annulment of his ruling. The S.C. is just there to find inconsistencies in rulings, they found that one, and they used it, with other elements, to legitimately annul that ruling.

1.2 Guede’s Conviction

The trial of Rudi Guede ended up with a conviction of 24 years for murder (reduced to 16, not because he was a “secret agent,” but because he took the short trial option). Within their report, though, those Supreme Court judges said that he had committed the crime with others.

Knox and Sollecito’s lawyers spent a lot of time talking about incomprehensible technicalities about DNA, but not enough to explain why the ruling about Guede was wrong (because it resulted from a flash-trial based on data that were then disproved). It looked like they were afraid to say in S.C. that another S.C. ruling was wrong. And if you are afraid of speaking, you can’t complain if things then turn against you.

So, due the “psychologism” of defense lawyers and their lack of opposition, the S.C. took that “truth” delivered by that other S.C. ruling, applied it to the case of Knox and Sollecito, and ordered a retrial, requiring legitimately that the court consider if Knox and Sollecito could be the others who, according to Guede’s S.C. ruling, committed the crime with Guede.

1.3 The Body of Circumstantial Evidence

The Supreme judges apprehended the case only from trial records.

They didn’t see things and persons, they didn’t live the case.

They didn’t see, for instance, the main witness Antonio Curatolo, and nothing prevented them from thinking that the bum could be a normal person, with no reason to lie, and who could have really seen Amanda and Raffaele. And the same was true for everything else.

We have lived the case, we have seen all indications of guilt being produced over time, always coming to save a castle that was collapsing. Then we have seen them being explained, over the years, one by one. To the S.C. judges, instead, those indications of guilt were presented all together, as if they had never been explained. Bongiorno said that they were “invented,” but didn’t explain when, how, why and by whom. It was natural then, for the S.C. judges, to legitimately order a new trial to see if they could be united in a story that made sense, especially because there was a main element that we shall see below.

 1.4 The Non-Testing of the “I” Trace

We had pointed out, during the discussion in the S.C., the great interest that the trace “I” on the knife was attracting. Undoubtedly, indeed, that became the main reason for the retrial decision.

The S.C. judges noticed that during the examination of the knife ordered by Hellmann and Zanetti, court-appointed experts Carla Vecchiotti and Stefano Conti had detected a small amount of DNA, the trace “I”, but had decided not to test it since the quantity was so small that the test wouldn’t have been reliable (moreover, with all party experts agreeing with that decision).

 The S.C. ordered a new trial so that the trace “I” could instead be tested. A decision useless in our view (we know, indeed, that Meredith’s DNA simply couldn’t be there), but not in the opinion of the Supremes, who didn’t have an actual knowledge of the case and didn’t know, for instance, that the knife was used for cooking in the days after the murder.

We understand, then, that the decision to order a retrial was not necessarily an act of cruelty, or corruption, or decided within a huge conspiracy, but rather a legitimate will to leave nothing unanswered. It was elicited mainly by the non-testing of the trace “I”, and facilitated by the fact that testing techniques had in the meantime improved, and even the trace “I” could now be read.

 Reasoning in the same way, the S.C., as we shall see, will have to annul Florence verdict.

See you tomorrow….

Written By Frank Sfarzo


  • Karen

    Given that the SC is only ruling what is in the file, how to get the file itself thrown out? Since it is chock full of factually incorrect information and has been since the first documents signed by Mignini in 2007.

    • wcnauthor

      in part 2 almost an answer

  • I think the author is telling us: look, this is how Italy’s supreme court always operates; this is how justice is served in Italy; this case is not an exception from the general rule.

    I suspect he may be correct. Recall Edward Luttwak’s memorable term for Italy’s courts and prosecutors: a system of “institutionalized injustice”.

    One glaring problem stacking the deck against defendants is that Italy’s supreme court does not accept “reasonable doubt” as most of us understand it. In its recent Stasi ruling, the court said it was “impossible to come to a result, be in a conviction or an acquittal, characterized by coherence, believability and reason.”

    An American or British court would conclude: not guilty. The prosecution has failed to prove its case. The Italian court concludes: the acquittal must be annulled; case sent back for reconsideration.

    It’s interesting that Frank Sfarzo pleads no contest to this approach, ascribing to Italy’s top court “a legitimate will to leave nothing unanswered.” But in modern Western states, criminal trials are not meant as exercises in endless truth-seeking. They only seek to answer one deceptively simple question: guilty beyond reasonable doubt, or not?

    Clearly, the Italian system is still beholden to its inquisitorial roots. It does not mind shifting the burden of proof onto the defendants and ordering endless retrials in search of “truth”, until everything fits in the eyes of the robed sages. Inevitably, it violates the defendants’ right to a fair and speedy trial.

    Another huge problem – one that guaranteed the unfairness of the trial in Florence from the start – is that courts are forced to accept other courts’ findings as rock-solid truth. Knox and Sollecito played no part in Guede’s trial but its findings are used against them. Never mind it was a fast-track trial where evidence was never properly examined. Even in Russia, where prosecutors use a similar trick, the acceptance of facts from fast-track trials is subject to greater restrictions.

    Thridly, the supreme court went well beyond what is expected of such a judicial body. It seems that it does that from time to time, occasionally with tragicomical results when it pronounces on issues beyond its competence. But this has been addressed in earlier articles.

    • wcnauthor

      Said between us, it was all ridiculous… but…

  • Noel Dalberth

    The fact is there is still no evidence implicating Amanda or Raffaele. You can play judge & jury based on what you perceive to be ‘incorrect’ our ‘inappropriate’ behavior but that means nothing. This conviction is a continuation of a 6+ year quest to condemn 2 innocents. Rudy Guede is the only man responsible for this horrific murder. No evidence exists that implicates her. She did not need $ nor did she have a strained relationship with Meredith. A judicial system that changes a motive, theory, contaminates evidence and withholds
    data is anything but honest. This case is about CYA and not Justice for Meredith.

  • Hoggar

    Frank, we all appreciate you have a point of view but now you’re just making stuff up.

    Did Hellmann actually say that?
    Were not the facilities already in place to analyse the trace during his court?
    Do you actually believe the Supreme Court were not fully acquainted with this case?

    Sure, there could possibly be a case of gross miscarriage of justice here. But this kind of stuff doesn’t help.

    • wcnauthor

      It doesn’t help?… I don’t see how can we help you. We make information, not diagnosis. The information I have, having followed directly the investigation since day one, the pre-trial, the trial, the appeal trial, the Supreme Court trial, the appeal bis, is that court-appointed experts agreed not to test the trace I. That was a reason of appeal, received by the Supreme Court, that ordered a retrial to have that test done. You didn’t know?
      If you didn’t know this you must have just started following this case, and from faraway, so before insulting the one who informs you try thinking twice. If you instead have information that I don’t have you can introduce yourself and tell us how things went in Rome.

      • Hoggar

        Having the trace analysed was one reason amongst many received by the Supreme Court. The pertinent point here was that Conti and Vechiotti had claimed the trace too small for a reliable analysis, when Novelli and other experts stated this was nonsense – as proved to be the case. Your piece claimed otherwise.

        There is information and disinformation, and I’m sure you’re well acquainted with both.

        You are not here to help me. You are supposed to be helping Knox and Sollecito.

        • ChrisHalkides

          Hoggar, Trace 36I is not reliable. It is not a matter of whether or not one can see peaks–that is an absurd definition of reliability (people have been performing PCR on one or two cell’s worth of DNA for many years). The issue is whether or not such small amounts of DNA are useful in the context of forensics. Novelli tried to make a terribly mistaken analogy with embryology, but the two situations are quite different, as Angela van Daal has persuasively argued. One of the problems is that low template DNA is inherently less reliable because of the ease of transfer of such small amounts of DNA. The other is that the knife should never have even been tested in a regular DNA facility if one were interested in low template work. Instead, it should have been tested in a dedicated facility.

          However, the larger issue is that this trace was supposed to be “decisive.” The SCC should acknowledge that the result was not what the prosecution would have wished it to be (Meredith’s DNA), but instead was Amanda’s DNA. Amanda’s DNA might have migrated from the handle during its packaging and transport, as research has shown.

  • siennareid

    I hope Frank that I can ultimately understand your reasoning for the future acquittal!

    From what I understand you are saying that there is no sense to anything which happened because:

    The first trial against Amanda and Rudy was built out of inaccurate and false information. They wrote a motivation full of errors, inconsistencies, false reporting of data, and illogical reasoning. The trial of Rudy Guede was accurate in his conviction, but illogical in the assumption that he did not commit a burglary and that other people acted with him. The second trial under Hellman examined only part of the inaccuracies of the first trial and corrected them, but unfortunately left a lot of inaccuracies to sit and not be challenged. Hellmann knew the slander (callunnia) charge was not fair, but he did not challenge it- probably in order to protect the cops (…or maybe himself from the cops). The violations of human rights and penal code rights of the defendants were never addressed, except in DNA analysis. The third trial negated the rationale of the 2nd trial and re-instated the original verdict, while changing the motive, but still keeps in place all of the inaccuracies of the first trial, while at the same time inventing many more in order to deal with the irrationality and illogical conclusions of the Corte di Cassazione ruling.

    Where can you go with this? Do you think that the Corte di Cassazione will actually make a correct ruling when Amanda and Raffaele make their appeal? Or will they just follow up again with another absurd ruling? Can they deny an appeal at this point?

    • wcnauthor

      You can ultimately understand reading part 2…

  • Antonio Curatolo

    When are you going to prison Frank?